Netflix delivered fans of The Sandman a pleasant surprise this weekend by releasing an unexpected bonus episode of the hit dark fantasy series. The hour-long special stands apart from the rest of the run as it comprises two distinct stories, one an animated short featuring an all-star cast of guest voice actors, and the other a lengthier live-action tale which introduces a key figure from Dream’s past into the mythos.
The story in question is “Calliope,” which focuses on one-hit-wonder novelist Richard Madoc (Arthur Darvill) who is suffering from debilitating writer’s block. He makes a deal with aged author Erasmus Fry (Derek Jacobi) to acquire the secret to Fry’s own success — an imprisoned Greek muse, Calliope (Melissanthi Mahut). Although initially sympathetic to Calliope, Madoc comes to abuse her just like Fry before him, angering Dream of the Endless (Tom Sturridge) in the process.
But what is the connection between Morpheus and Calliope? Here’s a recap of what we learned about the former lovers in the episode and what more we can glean from the comics.
Calliope and Dream’s relationship, explained
As revealed by the Fates when she calls on them for aid, Calliope and Dream — whom she calls Oneiros, the Greek personification of dreams — were once married and had a child together, Orpheus, the infamously tragic figure from Greek mythology. The couple’s relationship soured after the death of their son (more on him in a moment) and Calliope claims that they now despise each other.
This is revealed to be not entirely true, however. Once she discovers that Morpheus has escaped from his own bonds (a callback to the first episode of the season), Calliope summons her former husband and he is outraged at what she has suffered for the past 60 years, calling her imprisonment far worse than his own century in captivity. So enraged is Dream that he curses Madoc to experience never-ending inspiration, driving him near to madness. It is only at Calliope’s request that he releases Madoc from his punishment.
With Calliope free, the pair go their separate ways, but not before admitting that they no longer hate each other. Calliope suggests they should reunite in the Dreaming sometime so that they can properly talk through their grief over their son. Morpheus, never one for emotional honesty, is reluctant but the duo share an intimate moment before they say goodbye, potentially hinting that their feelings for each other are still unresolved.
Will Calliope return in The Sandman?
The “Calliope” portion of this bonus episode is an adaptation of the comic issue of the same name from the series’ third volume, Dream Country. The TV version embellishes both the title character’s role and her romance with Morpheus, depicting them as ex-husband and wife instead of simply exes. So could Calliope return in future seasons? It’s very likely, as she appears twice more in the comics.
First of all, Calliope features in an issue of volume six, Fables & Reflections, called “The Song of Orpheus.” This flashback story reveals the sad truth of the couple’s child, who failed in his attempt to rescue his late wife Eurydice from the underworld and was ripped to pieces by the servants of the gods for his blasphemy. Initially, Orpheus pleaded with his father to resurrect Eurydice but he would not. After their son’s death, Calliope blamed Dream for his fate.
Calliope’s final appearance came in an issue of The Wake, the comic’s final volume, but let’s skip over that one for now to avoid massive spoilers. Suffice it to say, Mahut should make a comeback on the show, possibly even as soon as season two. EP Allan Heinbeg has confirmed to Variety that the plan is to introduce Orpheus next time around, with an unknown actor already under consideration for the part. So it seems like a retelling of “Song of Orpheus” is being brought forward to next season, which will otherwise tackle volumes four and five.
With season two also likely to dive into his equally tragic past with Nada, it looks like we’re about to get a lot more focus on Morpheus’ love life if Netflix does the smart thing and renews The Sandman for another batch of episodes.